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8o                               THE GAY GENIUS

of the trade bureau at the capital, for instance, were that die small
traders were to become affiliated members of the bureau; that these
small traders could pool their goods with the bureau's assets, or that
the government would provide the capital for purchasing stocks fotf,
the stores run by them; that in case traders wished to liquidate their
business and hand over the goods to the government bureau they wouW
be permitted to do so; that they could use part of their goods as security
for cash advances from the government, for which they were to pay
an interest of ten per cent per half year or twenty per cent a year;
that others not connected with the bureau would also be permitted to
sell their stocks to it at prices fixed by the government; and that,
finally, all imperial purchases, by whatever department, would be
transacted through the trade bureau.

The government's absorption of small business was one of the worst ^
features of the regime, and private business came almost to a stanck
still. In a few years trade and commerce actually decreased so that the^
government revenue was affected to an alarming degree, in spite of the
theoretical high profits. The Emperor found himself? to his great dis-
gust, degenerating in the eyes of the people into a petty pedlar selling
fruits, ice and coal, calendars, and straw mats. In the end it was the
scandal connected with the trade bureau at the capital and the excise
tax that reached the ears of the imperial household and caused the
Emperor to put a stop to the most unpopular features of the reform.

But the most widely known of the new reforms in this regime was
the farmers'loans, and to this day when people speak of Wang Anshih's
reforms they always think first of these loans. It was a measure tha
affected every village of the empire and precipitated the biggest political
battle among the ministers at the court. In itself the plan was good and
sound, suggesting the idea of a farmers' bank. While serving as a young
magistrate, Wang Anshih had made loans to the farmers during spring
planting and collected them with interest when the harvest was in. He
had found that this was a real help to the farmers because in a local
administration he could see to it that the farmers came to borrow
money only in actual cases of need, and upon proper personal investi-
gation. In Shensi the local authorities also tried this scheme with
success, and it was from the practice started in Shensi that the farmers \
loans received their Chinese name of "seedling loans",

In a good year; when the authorities were sure of good crops, they
made loans to enable the farmers to purchase equipment and seedlings
for their wheat-fields; and when the harvest came, they were able to
collect grains for the army with an advantageous interest. In the words
of the bureau of economic planning: "It is proposed that the money
and grain from the price equalisation 'granaries be loaned to people
upon application, following the example of Shensi province. They may